The Lower House.

Today, at 11am, a special session was held in the Deputies Chamber of Congress, to discuss a law seeking to protect the children of people charged with femicide.

The law proposes that, once a defendant’s sentence is determined, they will automatically lose what is being referred to as patria potestad, which essentially constitutes the custody over the child as well as any parental rights and responsibilities for the child.

As it stands, there is a lot of support for the project, across political parties. The law will also go into today’s session with the preliminary approval of Congress’s upper house, given by Marina Riofrío, president of the Upper house’s Women’s Caucus. Riofrío stands “in agreement with the changes” to the law which the Deputy Chamber will make today, according to legislator Silvia Lospennato, as they “will enrich and amplify the proposal.”

As today’s meeting will produce various modifications and amendments, it will then have to go back to the upper house in order to be revised, before it can be approved. But Riofrío is said to be “committed to pushing it once again in the Senate, such that it can be passed as law as soon as possible”.

Report by La Casa Del Encuentro showing that the majority of femicides are committed by someone known to the victim. Protecting the children is therefore of utmost importance
Report by La Casa Del Encuentro showing that the majority of femicides are committed by someone known to the victim. Protecting the children is therefore of utmost importance

The project, which necessitates a reform of the Civil and Commercial Code, specifies that there are four circumstances in which the law would apply; where a parent has committed femicide; murder where victims and perpetrators were known to one another; gross bodily harm; and sexual abuse of a child on the part of a parent.

Back in July 2014, demonstrators gathered outside Congress to support this cause, then just a draft bill. Almost three years later, it may be on the brink of becoming law. According to figures from La Casa del Encuentro — an NGO supporting the bill at 2014’s protest — 1254 children were left motherless as a result of femicide between 2008-2013.

As well as the automatic removal of parental rights, the law entails a programme to help children who don’t receive support from their parents — called the “Support programme for Teenagers and young people upon leaving parental care” — and aimed at 13 to 21 year-olds.

As part of this, each person will be assigned a mentor to supervise and accompany them, and help them develop their self-sufficiency and autonomy. The mentor would provide assistance in areas such as education, health, work and housing arrangements. There will also be an economic element to the assistance; 80 of the minimum salary, starting from the moment they leave the care of child social care institutions.

Last week, Ni Una Menos took part in a debate in the National Senate, to discuss policies affecting women. Representatives from Ni Una Menos criticized the Security Minister Patricia Bullrich’s approach, which focussed on harsher punishments and prison sentences. Instead, the women’s rights organization asked for “more prevention and care, more equality and justice.”

As such, they may or may not have criticisms reading today’s proposal; while the bill seeks to care for and protect the children from any future abuse on the part of their parents, it does rather wait for a crime to take place before any action is taken. Ni Una Menos have criticized the state’s attempt to reduce the issue of gender violence to a penal issue, and instead stresses the need for, for instance, comprehensive sexual education, legal sponsorship, and dispensations in place for victims.